The whole country is starting to hear the music of Montclair’s own Pinegrove, and that means they’re also hearing a little bit of Montclair itself.
The band’s breakthrough album Cardinal was recorded mostly in a Montclair bedroom, and singer-songwriter Evan Stephens Hall says that’s a crucial part of Pinegrove’s sound. “Having the sounds of my house and neighborhood makes it sound lived-in and of a place,” he said. “So it’s important that we recorded it in Montclair and live in Montclair, because those sounds are in the recording and lend a presence.”
Pinegrove formed when Evan and Zack Levine, who went to Glenfield Middle School and Montclair High School together, came back to NJ after graduating from college. The band, which mixes rock, punk, country and other sounds into its melodic and deeply personal songs, played its first show in the summer of 2011 in, of all places, the basement of then-mayor Jerry Fried. And after a steady run of recording and touring, Cardinal caught the attention of national taste-making website Pitchfork.
Last month, Pitchfork featured a review of Cardinal and gave it an 8.0 (out of 10) rating, and it lead off with a shout-out to the band’s hometown: “Montclair, NJ, band Pinegrove’s debut LP Cardinal recalls some of the most consistently likeable rock bands of the past 20 years in their most easygoing phases.”
“It didn’t feel real,” said Evan of getting the big Pitchfork spotlight. “It was really exciting. This is our fifth release and we’ve never really been written about before, so this attention is really flattering.”
Now the band is out on its biggest tour yet. Later this week they’re playing at the SXSW music festival in Austin, and will continue playing shows through the end of the year. “We’ve done a full U.S. tour before, but this will be our first time playing larger venues,” said Zack. “We were used to playing basements and small DIY clubs,” and now they’ll be in rooms that hold more than 1,000 people, including a gig at Irving Plaza in NYC on April 22.
And as the band brings its music to more people in more places, they point out that Montclair won’t stop being an integral part of Pinegrove: Evan and Zack’s parents are also musicians and also play in band together—local roots-rockers Julie’s Party. “That’s the first connection between Evan and me,” said Zack. “The roots in Montclair still run pretty deep.”